Check Writing Fraud

An elderly couple sitting at the kitchen table. They appear to be going over monthly bills and paying them.

Unmasking the Low-Tech Crime

Bank fraud often brings to mind sophisticated cybercrimes, but it’s crucial to not overlook the alarming prevalence of low-tech check writing fraud. This form of financial deception can inflict significant harm on older adults and small business owners who rely on traditional payment methods.

Disturbing Statistics

  • According to the Federal Trade Commision (FTC), check fraud accounted for over $671 million in losses in 2021 alone.
  • The American Bankers Association estimates that check fraud costs banks and businesses approximately $1.3 billion annually.
  • Older adults and small businesses are prime targets, making up a significant portion of check fraud victims.

Targeting Vulnerable Populations

  • Older adults, with limited familiarity with digital payment systems, often rely heavily on checks for transactions.
  • Small business owners, who handle numerous payments and may have less stringent financial security measures in place, are vulnerable to check fraud schemes.

The Dangers of Check Writing Fraud

1. Unauthorized check alteration

  • Fraudsters alter the details on a legitimate check, such as the payee’s names or the payment amount, diverting funds to their own accounts.
  • Such alterations can be difficult to detect without careful scrutiny, especially with the use of advanced forgery techniques.

2. Counterfeit checks

  • Criminals create counterfeit checks using stolen account information or bank logos.
  • Counterfeit checks can be convincing, making it harder to identify them as fraudulent.

3. Check washing

  • Check washing involves erasing the ink on a legitimate check and rewriting for personal gain.
  • Fraudsters often target checks written in non-permanent ink, such as ballpoint pens, to remove the original ink and manipulate the details.

What Steps Can You Take?

1. Choose the right pen

  • Always use gel pens or rollerball pens with pigmented ink that cannot be easily washed or erased.
  • Avoid using ballpoint pens or markers, as the ink can be removed through chemical means.

2. Employ security features

  • Use high-security checks that incorporate features like microprinting, watermarks, or holograms.
  • These features make it difficult for fraudsters to replicate or tamper with the checks.

3. Be vigilant while writing checks

  • Fill in all the fields of the check completely and accurately, leaving no room for alteration.
  • Use a pen with an fine point to ensure clarity and prevent alterations.

4. Safeguard checks and account information

  • Store unused checks in a secure location, such as a locked drawer or safe.
  • Protect your account details, including bank statements and canceled checks, from unauthorized access.

5. Regularly monitor accounts

  • Frequently review bank statements, canceled checks, and online banking activity.
  • Report any suspicious or unauthorized transactions to your bank immediately.

Stay informed, stay alert, and protect your hard-earned money from check writing fraud.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.